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Bird Watching [Hardcover]

by Paula McCartney, Darius Himes
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

March 3, 2010 1568988559 978-1568988559 1
You have now before you a representation of one of the most richly coloured of birds, and one whose history is in some degree peculiar.
John James Audubon, The Birds of America

A spotted wren perches on the limb of a pine tree in a field of daisies. A song sparrow stands ready to take flight from a snow-covered limb against a winter landscape. For many, these descriptions depict quintessential experiences of nature. As photographs in a bird-watchers field journal they become something else entirely. Precious and desirable for being so rare, they transform into a kind of trophy that rewards the birdwatcher for his or her skill, tireless patience, and mastery over nature. At first glance, conceptual artist Paula McCartney's Bird Watching seems to be a most exemplary specimen of a birdwatching journal. Handwritten notations recording species, location, size, and markings describe well-rendered and flawlessly composed photographs of a wide variety of passerines, orperching birds, in their natural settings in locations across the United States. Page after page of the most wonderfully diverse species of birds are perfectly posed in picturesque natural settingsa bird-watcher's dream.

On second glance, however, the birds appear a bit too carefully arranged amid the tangle of brush and branches. Aneven closer look reveals stiff wire protrusions mounting each bird to its perch, matted tufts of overdyed faux feathers forming wings and splashes of paint creating eyes and beaks. McCartney has activated her atmospheric landscapes by adding synthetic decorative birds purchased at craft stores. This startling revelation has you wondering if the artificial might ultimately be more satisfying than the natural. Part document and part fiction, Paula McCartney's Bird Watching is a fanciful, homespun field guide to a woodland twilight zone where our unconscious need to controlnature is indulged and our search for an unattainable ideal natural experience is fulfilled. Featuring a design that mimics the tactility of a real bird-watching journal and including essays by Darius Himes and Karen Irvine, this book will appeal to the dreamy naturalist in all of us.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Another clever subversion of the observer's expectations, Bird Watching documents artist Paula McCartney's recent work in art and nature photography.

Each photograph captures a scene of purest wilderness - trees, branches, sky, pine needles underfoot, distant trails. Carefully framed in each photograph is a beautiful specimen of passerine, or perching bird. Notations accompany each photo, citing location, weather conditions and descriptive text of each documented bird." --my3books

"McCartney's first trade edition, published by Princeton Architectural Press, will be welcomed by individual collectors interested in McCartney's work, as it is both affordable in comparison to her artist books and beautiful." --Photo Eye Magazine

"McCartneys first trade edition, published by Princeton Architectural Press, will be welcomed by individual collectors interested in McCartneys work, as it is both affordable in comparison to her artist books and beautiful." --Photo Eye Magazine, March 5, 2010

"Another clever subversion of the observer's expectations, Bird Watching documents artist Paula McCartney's recent work in art and nature photography.Each photograph captures a scene of purest wilderness - trees, branches, sky, pine needles underfoot, distant trails. Carefully framed in each photograph is a beautiful specimen of passerine, or perching bird. Notations accompany each photo, citing location, weather conditions and descriptive text of each documented bird." --My3books, December 29, 2009

"McCartney plays both naturalist and artist, enacting both roles with such enthusiasm that the lines between them are almost completely blurred." --Rain Taxi, Spring 2010

"McCartney's images of birds are perfect, pastoral scenes of exquisite composition at first glance they reveal an almost too-perfect moment of feathered repose, as if McCartney has some special access to Audubon's dreams. On closer inspection however, they are too perfect elements of artifice become apparent, the birds are a bit patchy, wires protrude in many ways this revelation only brings them closer to Audubon's legacy, who's iconic images were also made from "preserved" specimens. Bird Watching is beautifully designed and printed, featuring texts from Darius Himes and Karen Irvine" --Photo Eye Magazine, April 9, 2010

"Constructing these photographs, McCartney acknowledges a desire for a romanticized view of the land and nearly gives it to us, but by including these fake birds, acknowledges that this romanticism is something of an ideal itself. It is in this disclosure, though, that Bird Watching is so successful." --Englewood Review of Books, March 5, 2010

"Speaking of birds, love this photograph by Paula McCartney, who has a new book out as well as a show opening in NY at Klompching Gallery tonight." --Quintessence, March 3, 2010

"Given the ability of photographers to Photoshop their bird and nature pictures, to remove twigs and branches, add or remove items, change the backgrounds, the lighting, the position of the sun, etc., it's curious to compare how an artist purposely manipulates a scene the way McCartney does with the purposeful manipulation of a scene after it's been captured on film, as many nature photographers do. What's the difference, besides the fact that McCartney's birds are fantastical fictions?" --Everybody Funny, March 2, 2010

"Princeton Architectural Press has just published Paula's first monograph, Bird Watching, featuring essays by HHS! panelist and founding member of Radius Books Darius Himes and Karen Irvine, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. The book is truly that rare object which serves up an extra-something-special not immediately available for consumption on the gallery walls." --20 x 200: A Jen Bekman Project, March 2, 2010

"This book is kind of similar to the Jean-Luc Mylane book I posted about a while ago, except, these birds aren't real!!! Paula McCarthy fills her landscapes with artificial birds she buys at craft stores and on ebay. I was fooled for a while. Tricksy Paula McCarthy." --Ivanhoe Books Art and Design, March 19, 2010

"A bird watchers dream comes to life via Paula McCartneys Bird Watching series in her first solo show in New York. The opening reception for Paula McCartneys Bird Watching will be Wednesday, March 3, from 68pm, the exhibit runs from March 4 to April 23, 2010 at Klompching Gallery, New York. An in-conversaton between Paula McCartney and Darius Himes of Radius Books, followed by a book signing will be held in the gallery on Saturday, March 6th from 12pm. Bird Watching is also a newly released book published by Princeton Architectural Press." --Photo News Agency, March 2, 2010

"A few weeks ago, on one of those dark winter days when I was longing for spring to finally arrive, a most beautiful book arrived on my desk: Bird Watching, by Paula McCartney, published by Princeton Architectural Press..." -- Elisabeth Biondi --The New Yorker Photo Blog, April 16, 2010

"Beautiful book, excellent photography, creative design, and ... fake birds. No, not real birds Photoshopped in, but little masses of styrofoam and feathers that have been artfully wired to the perfect branch. And that's what makes this book a real prize." --Mocoloco Art, April 11, 2010

About the Author

Paula McCartney is a photographer and book artist based in Minneapolis whose work has been exhibited nationally and is held in private and public collections.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition (March 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568988559
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568988559
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,452,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
BIRD WATCHING offers author Paula McCartney's handwritten notes on birds and observations with photos of birds in natural settings across the country, and makes for a powerful survey that is not all that it first seems at first glance. For wait - are those overdyed faux feathers? Paint? This blends art with science as it provides a lively field guide with natural history observation, pairing essays by Darius Himes and Karen Irvine with a fine, whimsical natural survey. Art and nature libraries alike will relish the different approach.
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